Don’t Walk a Mile
in Their Shoes
Our ability to empathize is usually
recognized as a way to make the
world a better place. But in this
excerpt from his book Against
Empathy, Yale researcher and
psychologist Paul Bloom argues that
the opposite is true.
I wrote [this] book … because I believe our emotional nature has been oversold. We have gut feelings, but we also have the capacity to override them, to think through issues,
including moral issues, and to come to conclusions that surprise us. I think this is where the
real action is. It’s what makes us distinctively
human, and it gives us the potential to be better
to one another, to create a world with less suffering and more flourishing and happiness….
[H]ow could empathy steer us wrong? ... Empa-
thy is a spotlight focusing on certain people in
the here and now. This makes us care more about
them, but it leaves us insensitive to the long-term
consequences of our acts and blind as well to the
suffering of those we do not or cannot empathize
with. Empathy is biased, pushing us in the direc-
tion of parochialism and racism. It is shortsighted,
motivating actions that might make things better
in the short term but lead to tragic results in the
future. It is innumerate, favoring the one over the
many. It can spark violence; our empathy for those
close to us is a powerful force for war and atrocity
toward others. It is corrosive in personal relation-
ships; it exhausts the spirit and can diminish the
force of kindness and love….
Now we will never live in a world without
empathy — or without anger, shame, or hate for
that matter…. But I do think we can create a culture where these emotions are put in their proper
place, and this book is a step in that direction. .
For more information: campuspress.yale.edu/paulbloom
Excerpted from Against Empathy: A Case for Rational Compassion, by Paul Bloom.
© 2016. Reprinted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
‘Empathy is biased,
pushing us in the
direction of parochialism
and racism. It is